When I was 25, I was fed up with being the only single girl among my friends. The grass looked greener on the other side where the lawn was always decorated for a wedding or a baby shower. I used to stand in front of my bedroom mirror and push my stomach out to see what I might look like with a baby bump (should I ever find Mr. Right), and imagine what it was like to be in a steady relationship.
It would be nearly 10 years later before I’d really see my baby bump, and in hindsight I’m thankful to have found love and motherhood later in my life.
In honor of my 35th birthday and being an “older” mom, here are 10 reasons—one for each year of the past decade—why I’m a better mom at 35 than I would have been at 25.
1: I’m comfortable in my own skin. All of it. Because there’s more of it than there was when I was 25. And while this skin has been stretched and dimpled and cut open with a scalpel, I’ve learned to appreciate beauty that goes far beyond what I can see in the mirror.
2: Uprooting my life doesn’t have to mean upheaval in my life. At 26, I was unexpectedly laid off from my job, broken up with my boyfriend, and my roommate was moving out. I left Manhattan to go back home with my parents in Central New York. At the time, I was devastated. Looking back, this was a pivotal moment of change in my life that led to many great things—I became a fitness instructor and started doing triathlon. I’ve learned to embrace changes in life as opportunities, not obstacles.
3: There’s always time to make the right choice. I was engaged at 27, to a wonderful guy that would have made a great husband. Just not my husband. A year and a half later, I would call off the wedding—even though I’d bought a dress, paid all the deposits and was about to send out 200 Save-the-Date cards. I felt a lot of pressure to try and make it work because so many things were in motion and “already done,” but I broke it off anyway. Breaking up with my fiancé taught me that there’s always time to do the right thing, even at the last minute.
4: I’ve proven that patience really does pay off. I had a job at an NYC agency before I graduated college, and truly believed that my passion and preparation for advertising as an undergrad meant that I’d find success quickly and easily as I entered the workforce. It wasn’t until I was 28 that I landed the job that would actually become my career. My patchwork resume wove bits of experience together from a variety of roles in writing, editing and marketing. Despite my ongoing persistence to find new opportunities, nothing happened quickly. It felt like things would never turn around. Only in my late twenties did I see how all of those experiences eventually led me to success. I became a regular contributing writer for Ironman.com, and an Account Planner in a successful advertising agency. And, it would be at this agency where I met my Mr. Right.
5: I know that having the right attitude is everything. I celebrated my last year in the twenties with my first Ironman finish—140.6 miles of blood, sweat and tears (and at the 2008 Ironman Lake Placid, a LOT of rain). There was nothing better suited to represent my twenties than the journey over 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling and 26.2 miles of running. But what became my sweetest victory was almost my biggest failure. Getting off the bike after six hours of body-numbing, cold monsoon-like rain showers took its toll on me and I literally wept with pain and frustration in the transition area. I decided that I needed to at least try and run one mile before calling it quits…I owed that much to myself, and to the many athletes I trained at Gold’s Gym every week who constantly heard me preach about “can-do attitude.” One mile gave way to another, and before I knew it I was running the final mile into the Olympic Oval in Lake Placid, 16:30 hours later to become an Ironman.
6: Age is just a number, it doesn’t define me. Turning 30 was bittersweet. Our society gets caught up in milestones, and when you’re a woman there is an expectation that at a certain point you will settle down and start a family. For some reason, 30 is the cut-off age when people go from a “Take your time!” approach to marriage and motherhood, to “What are you waiting for?” With a broken engagement just a year behind me, I’d already messed up my milestone timeline and embraced 30 as a chance to saddle up for new adventures rather than settle down with old mistakes. I’ve learned that age doesn’t have to burden me with what I SHOULD be doing. It’s a demographic bit of data, not a built-in dictator.
7: I expect to push my limits—in sport, in life. I could have stopped at one Ironman—all I ever really wanted was to prove to myself that I could do it. But I knew I was capable of more than I did. There was a nagging voice in my head that couldn’t let my Ironman experience be tainted with the idea that I almost quit. I needed another go to make peace with my psyche, so at 31 I did just that—besting my time by more than three hours. That was when I learned that pushing my limits would be a lifelong tool I will never put down. I seek discomfort in all areas of my life, because I know it will motivate me to grow as a person.
8: I had time to love myself before I loved my husband. I married my Mr. Right at 32, with zero hesitation or fear. The twenties taught me what I didn’t want in a relationship. But entering my thirties taught me to appreciate more things about myself. I learned that I was stronger than I imagined, and came to enjoy the hundreds of hours I spent alone swimming, biking and running to do triathlon. I’ve always been an introspective person, but getting inside my head would sometimes lead me to feel more self-destructive than self-actualized. Taking the time to really explore new goals and interests as a young adult allowed me to become a person who was ready to make the kinds of compromises and sacrifices that marriage requires.
9: I’m good at setting (and reaching) goals. In my twenties, the concept of a goal was more like a “wish.” I’d think of something that I wanted then imagine what had to happen for my wish to come true. There was no concept of actually doing anything to make it come true, save for a few half-assed first steps that I hoped would lead to a serendipitous intervention of someone or something that would speed things along. Over time, I realized that wishing sucked—and DOING is where it’s at. As I got older, I started to see how success was engineered by people around me and learned that I could chart a course to my own success in whatever I wanted to do. Naturally, I signed up for a third Ironman to mull the concept over while going for yet another personal record. That spring, we bought a house. I planned my training around moving, working a full-time job and being a newlywed, and at the age of 33, I became a three-time Ironman finisher with a new best time of 13:07 hours. And a kick-ass house.
10: I’ve learned to let people go, and let people in. As the years go on, the invincible feeling of the twenties gets diluted little by little while life unfolds in unpredictable ways. Having a baby made this feeling exponentially stronger. At 34, with a preemie newborn in my arms, recovering from an emergency C-section, I realized that we are not superheroes after all and it takes a lot of energy to find real strength in life. I no longer give myself to people who don’t give back to me, and I don’t waste energy holding grudges or putting up walls. The ebb and flow of people coming in and out of my life is not as dramatic as it was in the past. Within my heart, I have an open-door policy. See yourself in if you’d like to be part of my life, see yourself out if you don’t.
No matter what age you are when you become a mother, the beautiful part about the experience is getting to help shape and guide the energy of new life—and feeling that energy guide and shape you, too. I hope that my 35 years on this planet will help me raise a wonderful man. His 9 months here have already made me a better woman.